Teaching About Victimization in Respectful and Inclusive Ways

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Tamara O’Doherty, School of Criminology

Project team: Sheri Fabian, School of Criminology, and Hilary Todd, research assistant

Timeframe: November 2016 to June 2018

Funding: $10,000

Courses addressed:

  • CRIM 131 – Introduction to the Criminal Justice System - A Total System Approach
  • CRIM 230 – Criminal Law

Final report: View Tamara O'Doherty's final report (PDF)

A Toolkit for University Instructors: Teaching about victimization in respectful and inclusive ways (PDF)

Description: We wish to investigate strategies for disseminating lecture materials relating to victimization in ways that respect students who may have experienced violence themselves, or who may otherwise feel emotionally triggered when presented with certain topics and materials. Specifically, we wish to explore the practices already in use by faculty and then apply strategies of harm reduction in lectures where violence and victimization are key features of the course material. Our underlying goal is to ensure that our course delivery is respectful and inclusive of those students who have experienced trauma or are otherwise connected to, or impacted by specific cases, incidents, and other materials we discuss in Criminology courses. Two key instigating factors for this work are our concerns regarding student experiences of sexual assault on university campuses and the increase in core content relating to colonization, genocide and ongoing oppression of Indigenous and other marginalized persons in Canada. These issues, among many others, form a considerable amount of the content discussed in our lectures and we seek to continue to discuss these matters, but to do without causing any additional harm and instead building resiliency in our students. In addition to creating respectful and inclusive learning environments, we expect that increased attention to emotional responses to victimization material will assist students who hope to work in front line roles as police, corrections, social workers, lawyers, etc. The strategies we employ in class could be useful tools for students to use in future academic and professional settings, particularly given our increased understanding of the effects of PTSD on first responders.

One of the challenges we have faced in trying to mitigate triggers in lectures is making sure we do not compromise content while respecting student emotional resiliency. The victimization material is core to our course content in Criminology; it needs to be disseminated. However, we believe we can find additional strategies that can respect student emotional safety while covering the required materials and better preparing our students to manage this content in the future.

Questions addressed:

  • What harm reduction strategies exist to deliver victimization material in large lecture formats?
  • What are the challenges in employing harm reduction strategies in large lecture formats?
  • What are the benefits of employing harm reduction strategies to deliver victimization material?
  • How do instructors feel about altering their delivery methods to address student emotional safety, particularly for those students who have experienced trauma, or are otherwise connected to issues, cases?

Knowledge sharing: We will present our findings at the 2017 Annual Symposium on Teaching and Learning. We will submit proposals to academic conferences and seek to publish at least one article on our findings.

Fabian, S., & O’Doherty, T. (2017, October). Harm reduction and resiliency building in large lectures. Paper presented at the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSoTL17): "Reaching New Heights" Conference, Calgary, AB.

Fabian, S., & O’Doherty, T. (2017, June). Incorporating harm-reduction strategies to deliver material on victimization in lectures: Preliminary findings. Paper presented at the Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) Annual Conference, Halifax, NS.

Fabian, S., O’Doherty, T., & Todd, H. (2018, June). A toolkit for building resiliency when presenting potentially triggering materials in large lectures. Paper presented at the Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) Annual Conference, Sherbrooke, QC.

O’Doherty, T., & Fabian, S., & Todd, H. (2017). Teaching about Victimization in Respectful and Inclusive Ways. Research Connections. Retrieved from http://www.sfu.ca/content/dam/sfu/criminology/documents/AcademicNewsletter/2017_ResearchConnections5.pdf

Keywords: ‘Harm Reduction’; resilience; victimization; violence; trigger; respect; inclusion; strategies; lectures